With 17.3 percent of the world’s population and 15.1 percent of world’s undernourished population, India bears a huge burden of global food insecurity. Though there are some recent improvements in the nutritional status of children, the rates are way above an acceptable level. Micronutrient deficiencies are very high with anemia among women reaching 55.3 percent. India ranks 80 out of 104 countries on the Global Hunger Index.
The sex ratio in the country is declining at 940 females per 1,000 males, and expected years of schooling among females is less than for males. India ranks 130 out of 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.
WFP has been present in India since 1963.
WFP’s work in the country has evolved with economic growth and changing needs. Self-sufficiency in cereal production and large food-based safety nets to provide food security throughout the life cycle has allowed WFP to transition from distributing food to providing technical assistance. Food delivery was phased out in 2012, and a new Country Strategic Plan 2015-18 was signed between the Government of India and WFP.
Through this plan, WFP supports three Government food-based safety nets, covered under the National Food Security Act, which makes food a legal entitlement: the Targeted Public Distribution System, which covers poor and vulnerable people—or 67 percent of the Indian population; the Midday Meal Scheme—the world’s largest school meals program, which reaches some 120 million children between the ages of 6 and 14; and Integrated Child Development Services, which assists pregnant and nursing women and children below the age of 6.
WFP contributes to the Government’s efforts through the following efforts:
- Improvement of the efficiency of safety nets: WFP supports the Government of India around service delivery through technological solutions and evidence-based research. WFP is collaborating with the states of Odisha and Kerala to scale up reforms, building on the experiences of an earlier pilot and a country-wide study undertaken to develop best practices. Through these initiatives, WFP is indirectly reaching 67.3 million people.
- Improvement of the nutritional value of food under safety nets: WFP advocates for the enhancement of the nutritional content of the food basket through fortification and diversification. WFP supports various pilot initiatives to demonstrate models for enhancing nutritional value in the government school meals program. These projects are being implemented in both Kerala and Odisha with potential for statewide scale up.
- Improvement of systems for food security analysis and monitoring: WFP is partnering with state and national governments to strengthen and institutionalize their statistical and analytical systems for monitoring food and nutritional security.
- Contribution to knowledge sharing: A Letter of Intent has been signed to initiate the process of establishing of a Centre of Excellence. A high-level steering committee consisting of key secretaries will move this forward.